The Hamzah Affair: Context and Implications of Jordan’s Royal Crisis: Ghaith al-Omari, Robert Satloff, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Apr. 5, 2021
“Hamzah did not publicly object to the decision at the time, yet he subsequently positioned himself as a sympathetic figure and avatar of reform among Jordanians discontented with the country’s socioeconomic situation, especially disaffected tribal elements.”
The news emerging out of Amman—with former crown prince Hamzah bin Hussein ultimately vowing allegiance to his half-brother King Abdullah II after being placed at the center of coup rumors, and other former senior officials being arrested—is highly unusual in the traditionally quiet Middle Eastern kingdom that is approaching its centennial in a few weeks. While the full picture is unlikely to emerge soon, if ever, these developments focus attention on the country’s internal situation and highlight the need to bolster the stability of a key U.S. ally after a period of relative uninterest from Washington.
Potential Royal Showdown Amid Public Unrest
The visible security actions against Prince Hamzah—stripping him of his security detail and restricting his movement and access to communication—differ sharply from the kingdom’s typical means of handling its internal business. News of tensions within the Hashemite royal family occasionally surface, yet they tend to be resolved quickly and quietly away from the public eye.
The Brewing Storm in Jordan’s Oasis of Calm: Shannon McKeown and Erol Yayboke, Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Mar. 11, 2021
The international community need only look toward Lebanon for a cautionary tale about what happens when citizen grievances are left unaddressed.”
It is commonly held that the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is an oasis of calm in the Middle East. This characterization stems in part from Jordan’s stable monarchy and strong military and economic cooperation with the United States. Jordan has not experienced a civil war since Black September in the 1970s, nor has it been involved in a major conflict since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Even under acute moments of regional pressure, such as the 2011 Arab Spring, the kingdom experienced relatively manageable protests compared to its neighbors. With so much attention on surrounding conflicts and humanitarian crises, Jordan’s stability is often taken for granted by the United States.
However, Jordan now faces a threefold challenge—Covid-19, rising unemployment, and a deteriorating situation for refugees—that threatens the country’s stability. Even before the pandemic, increased pressure for political reform and rising unemployment rates, particularly for Jordan’s youth, posed a threat to this historic peace. The aftereffects of the Covid-19 pandemic threaten to further destabilize civil society.
Long-frustrated Jordan finally finds a way to hit Netanyahu where it hurts: Lazar Berman, Times of Israel, Mar. 12, 2021
The Jordanians are not particularly happy with Netanyahu, and haven’t been happy with him for a long time.”
Years of Jordanian frustration with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boiled over this week, as officials in Amman appeared to accuse him of endangering the region for political reasons and alleged that Israel had violated agreements with them.
At a press conference Thursday, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi assailed “those who are toying with the region and its peoples’ right to live in peace for the sake of electoral and populist concerns… destroying the trust which is the basis for ending the conflict.”
Safadi’s comments came the day after Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah abruptly canceled a planned visit to the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem over a disagreement with Israeli authorities about his security detail.
King Abdullah the Irrelevant: Caroline Glick, JNS, Mar. 21, 2021
“Netanyahu-hating commentators in the Israeli media along with Netanyahu’s political rival Defense Minister Benny Gantz were quick to use the canceled trip, and the unpleasantness at Allenby Bridge, to proclaim that through his disrespectful treatment of the Jordanians, Netanyahu had managed to undermine and endanger the peace deals with both Jordan and the UAE.”
According to media reports in Israel and the United States, on March 11 Israel’s ties with Jordan stood on the brink of the abyss. But then, five to 10 minutes passed and everything went back to normal.
Last week’s fleeting yet existential crisis of relations with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan disappeared without a trace. But before we forget all about it, it is important to consider what happened in some depth. Doing so will help us to understand the nature of Israel’s relations with Jordan in the era of the Abraham Accords, which all but ended the Arab-Israeli conflict.
For further reference:
Explained | Meet the Hashemites: Who Are the Key Players in Jordan’s Palace Intrigue: Reuters and Haaretz, Apr. 5, 2021 — Unprecedented public criticism of Jordan’s monarchy by a senior royal who has been placed under house arrest has shaken the country’s image as an island of stability in the Middle East. On Saturday, Jordan’s military told King Abdullah’s half brother Prince Hamza bin Hussein to halt actions targeting “security and stability” in the key U.S. ally.
Jordan: Who are the people arrested over the alleged coup plot?: Middle East Eye, Apr. 4, 2021 — On Saturday evening, Jordanian forces carried out a large-scale arrest campaign reportedly targeting at least 14 people accused of “undermining the security” of Jordan, including Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, the half-brother of King Abdullah II and former crown prince of Jordan.
Jordan’s Volatility Alerts the USA to Middle East Reality: Yoram Ettinger The Ettinger Report, Apr. 5, 2021 — Jordan’s domestic upheaval involved some Arab countries, members of the royal Jordanian family and other prominent Bedouins, who were arrested and charged with an attempted regime change.
Jordan announces new US defense deal allowing free entry of American troops: AlArabiya News, Mar. 21, 2021 — Jordan on Sunday made public a defense agreement with the United States that allows free entry of US forces, aircraft and vehicles onto the kingdom’s territory.
Nearly 20 arrested in alleged plot against Jordan’s King Abdullah II: Joby Warrick, Sarah Dadouch and Steve Hendrix, Washington Post, Apr. 3, 2021
Analysis: Palace Intrigue Harms Jordan’s Stable Image: Reuters and Algemeiner staff, Algemeiner, Apr. 4, 2021
King Abdullah clips wings of crown prince’s rival: Oded Granot, Israel Hayom, Apr. 6, 2021
In Jordan and Egypt, quiet qualms that Palestinian elections will boost Hamas: Aaron Boxerman and Jacob Magid, Times of Israel, Mar. 13, 2021